Spooktober 2019 – Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon

Yes, I know that Spooktober is over. But I’ve been crazy busy with other things over the last couple weeks and haven’t had a chance to finish up this review, so… gimme a break?

Also I just finished playing Luigi’s Mansion 3, which is the most recent game in the series. But before I talk about that, I feel like it’s necessary to chronicle the previous game, which I completed merely a day before LM3’s release.

Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is the second game in the series, a direct sequel to the original GameCube launch title. While Dark Moon was released in 2013, I didn’t actually get a copy until 2015. And even then, I didn’t start playing it until halfway through this very month. Perfect timing!

If you aren’t familiar with the series, Luigi’s Mansion puts… Luigi in a… mansion and has him hunt down and capture oodles of ghosts with a modified vacuum cleaner. Also you’re encouraged to try sucking up everything in sight to see if it shoots out a bunch of money. While the first game more or less gave you free run of a single, gigantic mansion, Dark Moon breaks it up into five smaller locations whose classification as mansions varies from “definitely a mansion” to “a mine with a small chalet above it”.

Each mansion is also further broken down into several missions and capped off with a boss stage. This is where I think Dark Moon suffers a bit. In the original game, you would end up backtracking a bit, but that’s because you needed to explore one huge location, similar to early Resident Evil games. The mission structure in Dark Moon has you revisiting the same rooms over and over again, often having to clear the rooms of ghosts or solve puzzles on each pass. Not always, but often enough that it starts to feel repetitious by the end of the first mansion. This tedium is really what kept me from truly getting into the game, and why I generally stuck to playing one mission per play session.

Oh! And the first boss is a garbage fire, but the rest of them range from inoffensive to pretty good, so I won’t come down on it too hard.

On the bright side, those are really the only things that I didn’t like about Dark Moon. Other that that, it was pretty much on par with the precedent set by the first game. Which is to say that it was a fun experience, but not one that you’d ever have to feel like you’r missing out on. The basic gameplay of “battling” ghosts is still exciting enough, even after you’ve sucked up hundreds of ghosts. Each mansion also has its own theme, and while they do fall into the standard video game environments (forest, desert, ice, etc..), there’s enough of a twist to each that they feel fresh and unique.

The puzzles within the mansions don’t really ever get all that difficult. Most of them involve rotating a fan or sucking up a false wall. Occasionally you’ll have to deal with something a little more complex, but I never once got hung up trying to figure something out. Really, I think the puzzles are just there to give you something else to do besides sucking up ghosts, so I can’t really fault them for never going past the point of ‘tricky’. Something that really stood out to me is that there are a number of missions that require you to escort a Toad around, and they are surprisingly the least tedious parts of the game. The Toads are cute and squeaky, and it’s always fun to suck them up and then blast them across the room. The whole “escort mission” thing doesn’t ever really get in the way, either, as the Toads will just follow you around as you do your thing and never cause any sort of troubles with combat.

Where the real challenge lies are in finding all of Dark Moon’s vairous collectibles. Each mansion has like… a dozen sparkly gems that are hidden away, and they’re generally behind the game’s true puzzles. So if you’re itching for a brain-bender, you may want to make it your goal to find all the gems. The reward is a little statue for each set that you complete, so it’s really more about the journey than the destination for these. Every mission also has a single Boo hidden somewhere, and capturing all the Boos in a mansion unlocks a time attack stage. Lastly, you’re ranked on your performance during each mission, on a very mobile one-to-three-stars scale. This seems like the most arduous task that Dark Moon gives you, and your effort for a perfect three-star file gets you… nothing but bragging rights.

What really shines above all else in Dark Moon is, well, Luigi. He’s so elaborately animated and full of character that it’s simply a pleasure to see all of his various reactions to whatever’s going on around him. He’s also got more voice lines than he or Mario have ever had before, and I feel that it goes a long way to giving him just that much more personality. Professor E. Gadd and all the various ghosts are fairly charming in their own ways as well, but Luigi absolutely steals the show. As he should.

At the end of the day, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is a game that is definitely worth playing. It’s fun, charming, and will absolutely scratch that OCD itch for vacuuming up every piece of the environment to see how it reacts. While the only major flaw is that it feels too segmented and repetitive because of the mission structure, I feel like that one problem really does get in the way. It really did make Dark Moon feel more like work than it should have. I think the game would have been better off just making each mansion a self-contained chapter. Yes, it would have cut down playtime by probably a third, but all that time is just spent re-clearing rooms you’ve already been through anyway. Still, I’m happy that I played it. If absolutely nothing else, it thoroughly prepared me for Luigi’s Mansion 3.

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